Imagine my pleasant surprise–combined with some mortification for not knowing sooner–when I learned that one of the pioneers in urban planning and planning education was a Rochesterian. Charles Mulford Robinson was not only a pioneering urban planner who took the lead on plans for several American cities, but was also a leading planning theorist, journalist, and writer. He also was one of the first teachers of planning and community design– a Professor of Civic Design at the University of Illinois.
Certainly, some of Robinson’s ideas unfortunately reflect the prevailing discriminatory views of his time, but even though I would disagree with and discredit some of his planning ideas as a result, I think raising his name from obscurity can serve as a great conversation-starter about community planning, design, and development–topics that more people need to be talking about more often!
A Wikipedia page for Robinson gives a decent overview:
And this excellent, detailed post from my former hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia gives a solid overview and critique of Robinson’s ideas:
I have only once heard Robinson included in a list of prominent and important Rochesterians. Hence, I have a(nother) new crusade: to make sure Rochester and the planning profession know about Charles Mulford Robinson! Including him on oft-spoken lists of prominent Rochesterians would not only honor his work, but again, get people thinking and talking about important community planning and design concepts and issues!
I wonder if Robinson is included in the popular and fascinating Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery walking tours. I will find out…
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of information about Charles Mulford Robinson and his work on that amazing universe we call the internet. Try a search…
by Evan Lowenstein
Evan is the Coordinator of the RochesterCityLiving program at the Landmark Society.